Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New Nature Journal

Apparently Nature Plants is starting up...


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The evolution and ecology of drought tolerance: project germination

The new Dimensions of Biodiversity project on grass drought tolerance is underway.

The first phase is to screen as many species of grass as we can. So far we have 1200 species in hand. Another 360 on the way.

Depending on other sources, we might hit close to 2000 species.

So far, we've germinated ~400 species. That would be another 4 months of germinating seeds at 100 species a week.


I'll add more on this later, but the diversity of grasses in the world is really amazing. From the bottlebrush Festuca hystrix to Zea, they all use the same basic bauplan, but have radiated in amazing ways.

With over 11,000 grasses in the world, there is likely a lot of ways that they differ.

We'll tackle a few of them here...

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bison weighing themselves...

Proportion of bison for a given weight. Red is from the field scale. Blue is from the round ups in the fall.

Bison crossings over our field scale have really taken off. We've recorded 400 weights in the past four days. For a herd of just 300, that's pretty good.

We don't have the tag reader in place yet, but I looked at the distribution of weights recorded in the field, vs. what we get in the roundups.

You can see some pretty similar peaks. The first peak are calves. The second peak would be yearlings. The third peak would be adult females.

The adult female peak is shifted ~50 kg lower. Previous work showed that the animals lose about 10% of the body mass over the winter, which we are showing here.

The heaviest animal we had was 738 kg. You can see the tail for roundups extends beyond this. Whoever that was will probably put on 100 kg this year.

The new EID readers show up later this week. Soon, we'll start to track individuals over time.

That's going to be amazing. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Waiting for bison...

Here's my office today.

The latest goal is to get bison to weigh themselves. Sounds a bit crazy, but it turns out we can do it.

Nature Conservancy purchased a special scale for us to install at Konza. If bison walk over it, a weight is recorded.

This let's us track their seasonal patterns of weight gain. We still don't know when they gain weight and when they lose it.

Without that knowledge, it's hard to predict how they are going to respond to climate change, for example. If we get warmer springs, will that increase or decrease how much weight they gain and how many calves they produce? What about droughts?

So, my job has been to sit out here in the mornings and wait for bison to show up and weigh themselves or not. There's still some fiddling on how to site the thing right.

Soon, we'll install EID readers so we can record the identity of the animal as well as its weight.

In the meantime, I have my cellular personal hotspot and laptop to do some work.

And a pretty good view.